Many prom nights are filled with over-the-top spectacle, excitement and an air of anxious mystery. Director Nelson McCormick
's Prom Night is not. Its story of teens being stalked by a crazy ex-teacher is a miscolored paint-by-numbers movie that lacks suspense, thrills or any semblance of horror. How could you botch the classic setup of a crazy man obsessed with a young woman, predictably the only girl left alive in the end (the Final Girl for the horror buffs)? It's easy, just don't care.
Even if McCormick would have done a verbatim, shot-for-shot remake of the sub-par 1980 film of the same name (cough, Haneke
), this Prom Night remake would have a stood more of a chance. Instead, McCormick tries to drum up scares through loud noises associated with mirrors, plastic tarps, and lamp shades, making inanimate objects more terrifying than the killer. The movie is driven by these red herring scares and any gore from the murders, which seems to be the only horror that excites these days, is done off-screen. That's not to say that buckets of blood would have saved this movie, but the one time that you actually sit up and take notice is when blood is splattered against a plastic construction tarp -- the only 30-second shot McCormick might have been awake while directing. Article continues below
As if the exploitation of horror clichés wasn't enough, we also get all the clichés that make up a coming-of-age teen movie: "This is the best time of our lives," "This is the last time we'll be together," alcohol abuse, and prom night sex. But it's just as half-assed as the attempt at suspense. The imitation of MTV-style jump cuts, pans, and tilts on the dance floor is laughable in its inability. It's horror for The Hills generation, where extravagant dresses, shoes, self-imposed glamour, and self-importance trump scares and depth.
Like the high-gloss confetti that falls on Prom Night's dance floor, there are moments where the movie might show the flicker of pulse, but you have to be looking for it. Take, for instance, the moment in the prom-hosting hotel elevator, when 40-something business men hit on the barely legal teens. It's the epitome of the story, but it lacks any creepiness or effect and is quickly forgotten, much like the death scene where a stabbing is intercut with dance floor gyrations. The montage is poorly executed and barely happens -- only the tail end of the murder is cut with the dancing, almost by accident it seems.
It's a telltale sign when studios are remaking D-list horror flicks that the genre is in trouble. But the movie's existence is our own fault, as we continue to support trash every week at the box office. Prom Night's critical star rating means nothing to the Hollywood remake machine compared to its box office take. Where other remakes such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes elicit a sense of anger, Prom Night brings on cinematic sadness. We're one box office weekend away from a remake of Leprechaun.